Lions-Raiders Preview

The Associated Press

Trying to maintain their playoff position in the NFC, the Detroit Lions are eager to welcome one of their top players back to the field.

The Oakland Raiders are looking for anything to help their chances of remaining in the AFC playoff picture.

With defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh back after a two-game suspension, the Lions look to avoid a third consecutive road loss Sunday by handing the Raiders a third straight defeat.

Detroit has lost five of eight since opening with five straight wins but is in position for a wild-card spot after it beat Minnesota 34-28 and Chicago lost its third in a row last Sunday.

"One win down, and we've got three left to get," said Matthew Stafford, who went 20 of 29 for 227 yards with two touchdowns against the Vikings.

The Lions (8-5) should get an even bigger boost from Suh. The controversial defensive star returns after serving his suspension for stepping on the right arm of Green Bay offensive lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith during a 27-15 loss on Thanksgiving Day.

Suh declined to talk about that incident or the car accident he got in while in his hometown of Portland, Ore., while away from the team.

"The most important thing right now is this football team and not me individually," said Suh, the reigning defensive rookie of the year who has 31 tackles and three sacks in 2011.

Detroit hopes to benefit from Suh's presence after it allowed New Orleans and Minnesota to score 59 points without him. The Lions led 28-7 before the Vikings got within six points and had the ball inside the 5-yard line in the final seconds. They caught a break after no call was made when linebacker DeAndre Levy grabbed the facemask of Minnesota quarterback Joe Webb on the final play.

Though Detroit feels fortunate to have survived that game, it is only looking forward while trying to secure its first playoff appearance since 1999. After Oakland (7-6), the Lions host San Diego and conclude the regular season at undefeated Green Bay.

"We've got a three-game schedule," coach Jim Schwartz said. "A significant portion of that schedule is the Oakland Raiders. That's the only thing that we can worry about right now."

While Detroit is 5-0 against teams with losing records, it's 3-5 when facing clubs .500 or better. The Lions also have been outscored 68-30 while losing their last two road games to the Bears and Saints.

That mark could improve against an Oakland team that has been outscored 80-30 during consecutive losses at Miami and Green Bay following a three-game winning streak.

The skid has dropped the Raiders from first place in the AFC West to one game behind division-leading Denver. Oakland is one of three teams one game behind New York for the final wild-card spot.

"Obviously we're still in the thick of this thing," coach Hue Jackson said. "It's still all out in front of us. It doesn't feel that way, obviously, after the last two weeks. The reality is that's what it is. So on we go."

As the Raiders move on, they need to find ways to score points and stop the opponent from doing so.

Oakland, which has given up at least 31 points five times, fell behind 34-0 in each of its last two games. Though the Raiders have yielded 517 rushing yards over the past three weeks, their biggest challenge Sunday could be trying to stop Stafford. He's thrown a touchdown pass in 15 straight games and is 246 yards shy of becoming the third player in Detroit history to pass for 4,000.

"We understand that nobody's perfect," Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain said. "You're not going to play perfect. But you don't want to make the mistakes that we've been making."

Offensively, Carson Palmer has thrown five interceptions over the last two games, including four in a 46-16 loss to the Packers last Sunday.

With star running back Darren McFadden still nursing an injured foot, the Raiders have gone more than 14 quarters and 99 carries without a run of at least 20 yards after having 19 in the first 9 1/2 games.

"We need to play much better than we did the last two weeks," Palmer said. "Our backs are against the wall. Our team understands where we are and what's at stake."

Palmer, who has completed 66.2 percent of his passes for 494 yards with four TDs and four interceptions while winning both career starts against the Lions, could have deep-threat Denarius Moore back after he missed the past three games with a foot injury.

Lions star Calvin Johnson caught four passes for 70 yards with a touchdown in a 36-21 win at Oakland in 2007 in the last matchup. That was Detroit's first victory in five road games against the Raiders.

Detroit has won the last two meetings after dropping four straight and six of seven in the series.

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